(6/29 edit: The embedded video that was once here was removed by BET.)
So last night at the BET Awards, Chris Brown took the main stage again for the first time after beating his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna. The backlash against Chris Brown after this incident was pretty strong. Most of America took Rihanna’s side, even after Brown apologized publicly in numerous interviews, somewhat blaming his behavior on witnessing his mother be abused as a child and therefore carrying on what’s often called a “cycle of abuse.” While Rihanna’s career is as successful as ever (good for her), the last I’d heard of Brown was in early June when he was denied entry to the UK on grounds the British Home Office describe as, “We reserve the right to refuse entry to the U.K. to anyone guilty of a serious criminal offense. Public safety is one of our primary concerns.” I applaud the UK for this decision! I’d like to argue that one reason domestic violence is so prevalent in America– one in four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime (click here for a domestic violence fact sheet)– is because it’s often treated with a slap on the wrist by our legal system and society.
Last night’s performance by Brown goes to show how quickly we excuse this despicable behavior in our society. First, the fact he was even allowed to perform to such a wide audience as major cable network BET‘s was disturbing. Second, his tribute to a pop star held with such high prestige as Michael Jackson is questionable– of all the people they could have found to do a tribute a year after Jackson’s death, why Brown? Doing a Jackson tribute was a sure way to draw attention last night, and it does not seem to reflect very kindly on Jackson’s memory to have an abuser of women (although, ironically, Jackson may have been an abuser of children) be the one to pay homage to him. Third, Brown’s breakdown was clearly a publicity stunt. He started crying during his performance of “Man in the Mirror,” a song about changing ones self to make the world a better place. Clearly Brown pulled this to have people feel sorry for him and finally forgive and forget what he did to Rihanna.
Pop culture embracing Brown as a changed man sends a message to those in abusive situations (abusers and victims) that this type of behavior is easily forgiven and forgotten. This is a dangerous and heartbreaking message.